There is an old Armenian tradition called "Argakhatik": when the baby's first tooth is ready to come out we try to guess the child's future occupation. What we do is we put different objects on the table, which is covered by a rug. It can be just everything: from utensils like spoons and nails to jewellery and sheet music. Each object stands for a profession. We put a baby in the middle of the table and sprinkle its head with sweets - berries, nuts and raisins. This means good luck and success in life. Then we leave the wondering child alone for a while and see what it picks up. So, my grandma, grandpa, uncle, auntie, mum and dad (who was actually on a business trip in Moscow) were surprised when I picked the sheet music with my left hand and the paint brushes with my right hand. I myself still wonder about my choice.
I got my first violin lessons from my grandfather Ashot. There was a long preparatory stage: he was telling me about his big violin and bow that he kept in a case on the top of the wardrobe in my room. My grandpa used to say that they were waiting for me and I'd get them if I worked hard and did well. I was so impressed that at the age of 3 or 4 I even carved a small violin out of wood and painted it different colours the best I could and started "practising".
The story of my grandfather's bow is absolutely amazing. He bought it when he was a student for two Tsarist gold roubles (it was a lot of money at that time!). He used to tell me about different violinists who asked him to sell his bow and were desperate to get hold of it, including such famous musicians as Jean Ter-Merkeryan. But my granddad vehemently told everyone that this bow just couldn't be sold (I was not born yet...). And of course it couldn't: it's so obvious, since there are things you simply cannot sell, for they have special memories and are full of history. You can't exchange them for money even if you are broke.
Thus, this bow has finally found its new owner. I will never forget this feeling of freedom and ease when I could finally use the whole bow, "for adults". It was like taking a new breath! Now this bow is always with me, as is the spirit of my grandfather.
I got one of my first violin records from my mother. It was Jasha Heifetz's interpretation of the Mendelssohn Concerto. When I was a child I loved listening to music and fairy tales on records. I could sit there and listen to it for ages, oblivious to my parents calling me for dinner.
I guess this record of Jasha Heifitz's interpretation was crucial to my musical destiny. I listened to it almost every day.
My grandmother Susanna has also greatly influenced my development as a musician. Moreover, we were like two close friends who could understand each other without words. The age difference and whether you are relatives or not is not important. She used to say, "You are in my heart" and I felt exactly the same for her.
In the summer, when I came to Yerevan once again, I met Loris Cheknavorian through my grandma. We arranged an audition date for autumn. We played Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 2. It was a great success. Loris was really impressed. I will never forget what he said after my performance was enthusiastically and joyfully greeted by the audience, "No matter how excellent you play, wherever your destiny leads you, do never forget where your roots are: they are in Armenia!"
This concert was broadcasted on television and was even recorded and partly played on the radio. I remember how surprised I was listening to myself. I couldn't believe it was me playing like this! My grandma was sitting at our kitchen table, listening to the music and I could see tears silently rolling down her cheeks.
I can imagine how happy she would be if she heard my CD recordings. My second "Armenian" disc is dedicated to her memory. I think she can hear it, as can my grandfather, for it was him who said, "One day she will become a violinist."